Help Wanted: Broadcasting in the Public Interest

Imagine there’s no countries, so the song goes.  Well how about imagining a world of broadcasting in the public interest.  That may be as difficult to imagine as a world without state sovereignty.

In the United States, almost all broadcasting is supported by advertisers whose clients are the shareholders and owners of the media companies.  The viewing public that utilizes media for information and entertainment is brought to these companies and their advertising sponsors through programs.  We don’t show up for the ads.  We suffer through the ads to get to the programs we love.

Despite the sluggish economy, global advertising, and consequently, privatized media, continue to grow.  In 2012 alone, North American advertising is projected to total $171 billion.  Ad spending in 2012 on Mother Earth is projected to be $489 billion, which makes North America, where the U.S. is the principal sovereign, responsible for nearly one-third of all the world’s ad costs.

The UK-based ZenithOptimedia predicts this trend in ad growth:

Between 2011 and 2014 we predict 60% of all the world’s growth in ad expenditure will come from developing markets (which we define here as everywhere outside North America, Western Europe and Japan). 50% will come from just ten developing markets. The four BRIC markets alone (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are forecast to account for 35% of global growth. Beyond the BRICs, there are six fast-growing markets we forecast to add between US$1 billion and US$4 billion each to the global ad market, and deliver another 15% of global growth: Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey.

The significance of this global trend is that peripheral countries are modeling their media behavior on the North American model.  This may explain why the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) called on its members to support the public interest in digital conversion in radio and television. 

In what is being called the Seoul Declaration, the region’s public broadcasters meeting in the Korean capital say the digital switchover frees space on the old analogue radio spectrum which should not just be sold for short term gain – it should be devoted to the public good.

Public broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region are concerned that social needs will be short shrifted by private sales in the switch from analogue to digital.  The digital wave is being led by the global advertising rise in peripheral countries where meeting basic social needs is the greatest.

How do we protect the public good and all that it entails (health, education, environmental safety) in light of a global communications wave dominated by a pro-growth, advertising-centered model?  Should advertisers donate at least one percent of their profits to public interest media?

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About socalnancysnow

I'm Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, what we sometimes refer to as "Disney U" given its proximity to the famous mouse kingdom. I specialize in political and persuasive communication (e.g., media and politics, rhetoric, propaganda studies, image management), which explains my social media handles: Twitter (drpersuasion) and Skype (drpropaganda). My best known books are "Propaganda, Inc." and "Information War," though I have also edited several books on the post-9/11 era, including the "Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy" and "War, Media and Propaganda." I have published nine books altogether. My latest are "Truth is the Best Propaganda" and "Propaganda and American Democracy."

7 responses to “Help Wanted: Broadcasting in the Public Interest”

  1. Ken Heller says :

    More and more I see the increased need for media literacy on a large scale, which appears unmet. Your post only furthers exemplifies that need in my mind. I’ve spent the last couple years focusing my studies on Media Psychology and have really become concerned about the degree of influence and persuasion techniques that are practiced in a variety of ways (which is what has caused me to read your books and follow your posts). I’ve become aware of groups/non-profits that advocate for media literacy, but I have yet to find an organization that actually offers training/solutions for individuals – actual content development and dissemination. Nancy, are you aware of anyone that provides such a service?

  2. Nancy Snow says :

    There is not one organization to address this, Ken. Many are driven by partisan political causes, e.g., Accuracy in Media or Media Matters for America, and do not address the power of advertising so much as comment on media coverage of their preferred individuals and organizations. I share your frustration, which is why I advocate for the teaching of critical communications, persuasive communications and propaganda studies. These courses are short shrifted in the U.S. because they are non-professional courses. In other words, they tend to teach students how to think instead of how to prepare for industry.

    • Ken Heller says :

      Do you think it would be possible to bring together a group of like minded educators and professionals from different industries to discuss the creation of such an organization? Would you be interested, and willing to discuss the possibility?

      • Nancy Snow says :

        Of course I’m open to any independent and nonpartisan organization that instructs in and supports critical communication studies. I’m sure a few do exist that I don’t yet know. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open. Someday I’d like to create something similar, at least online.

    • Ken Heller says :

      We would have similar goals then. Do you have a preferred email address which I can write to? I’ve done a little digging around to find out what may already exist.

  3. Hanna Kim says :

    Thank you for sharing this. Since I’m an advertising major, these kinds of issues really interest me.

  4. Keith Goldstein says :

    I find this article to be interesting on many levels. More than the preservation of public good, the statistics of growth within the industry I find to be fascinating. The amount that is being spent on these advertisements is remarkable considering the world market’s current position. I feel to preserve the public good, the privatized ad industry would be doing a service to set aside such a program. The switch to digital is like any other technological improvement, over time the world must adjust, and in doing so, we as a people locate flaws in the distribution for our well being.

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